One-On-One With Stan Wawrinka: One Of The World’s Greatest Tennis Players

Photo Credit: Romain Maurice

STORY AND INTERVIEW BY DEYVANSHI MASRANI
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMAIN MAURICE FOR HAUTE LIVING
SHOT ON LOCATION AT ONE THOUSAND MUSEUM IN MIAMI, FLORIDA

A Swiss Native, Stanislas—or “Stan,” as he is more commonly known—has seen his fair share of success at the highest level of professional tennis. The once world-ranked number three player took home three Grand Slam titles during the course of his ongoing career: one at the 2014 Australian Open, one at the 2015 French Open and one at the 2016 U.S. Open, where he impressively defeated the now world number one player, Novak Djokovic. With one of the most dangerous one-handed backhand shots in the game, it comes as no surprise to know that the Audemars Piguet brand ambassador continues to give the world greats, like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, a run for their money each time they meet on the court. But one of the downfalls that comes with the territory of being one of the best tennis players in the world, is being susceptible to injury. A devastating knee injury in mid-2017 led to his withdrawal from the 2017 season as a whole—a tough pill to swallow for “Stan the Man,” who has lived, breathed, slept and ate tennis since the age of 8. But on the flipside, being one of the best tennis players in the world also comes with an unparalleled sense of will, determination and fight. Fast-forward to 2019, about one-and-a-half years later, Stan is prepared, in every sense of the word, to put that will, determination and fight to the test for his comeback…and there’s nothing we love more than a comeback. Here, I sit down with Stan to discuss his love of the sport, what we can expect from him in the future, and who he loves (and doesn’t love) to play on the court.

Seeing as how you’ve started from such a young age, I’m sure you saw a lot of greats come before you. Are there any that you have looked up to through your career and if so, why?
For me, there were a few players that I really admired like Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter and Àlex Corretja. It was really those three players that I always looked up to. I liked the way they were playing, the way they were champions, finding ways to win, and different ways to stay at the top of the game. I always enjoyed watching them.

So you’ve been in the game for a long time obviously and you’ve presumably seen some changes in the sport. How do you think tennis has evolved since you started, in regards to technology and even social media, among other things that you think have had an impact on the sport overall?
Well first, there is the game itself. As players, we start to play faster now with the technology, with the new rackets, new strings, new balls, even different kinds of balls. Also, the evolution of our fitness levels, with having a bigger team around you, being more professional than maybe 10 or 15 years ago, physically building yourself more. So if you look at players now, they’re way more physical on the court, which makes the game go much faster. And for sure you have all the outside things…like social media…You know that you have to always be careful with what you’re doing off the court…It doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be something, there will always be a picture. You cannot just be relaxed and quiet; anybody can take a picture of you and come out with [it]. Not necessarily only in bad way but it is what it is. [But] I also think that the positive of that is that you can give way more to the fans, [which is] what they’re looking for. You can easily [show] more private stuff by controlling what you want to give, which picture, what you’re doing. Sometimes [you can show] the fun things and that’s what the fans love.

Photo Credit: Romain Maurice

Given that you can share more of what the fans want to see, walk me through your average day.
Well, each average day is completely different, if it’s in tournaments or at home or in a practice week. I’m here [in Miami] for the tournament so I’m going to go quite early on the court at the club. I’m going to do 45 minutes of working with my physio[therapist] on the body, then I’m going to work at the gym for 45 minutes, more or less. I’m going to practice tennis for two hours and most of the time I’m going to have a small lunch. I’m going to come back to the hotel in the middle [of the] afternoon. Then I will do at least one hour of physio[therapy] again, so the day is really full. Sometimes I have some activities or some media to do at the club. And for the rest of night I’m going to go to dinner with my team or with some friends. That’s my average day when I’m in tournament—the day is really full.

I know that you get to travel a lot. So, turning a little bit to a different direction outside of tournament, since you get to travel to so many wonderful destinations, like here in Miami, where would you say from a leisure perspective is your favorite place to go?
I really enjoy New York. I think it’s probably my favorite big city to go to. I think there is always something to do there, it’s always moving. I really enjoy spending time there when I go to the U.S. Open, maybe two or three weeks. I like Miami too. I have some friends here, it’s normally sunny so when I have a little bit of time, I can go to the beach or go to the pool. I really enjoy the sun so for me, it’s quite good here. For holiday I will go to the beach that’s for sure. I like the Maldives because I like it to be really quiet. During the year I’m always surrounded by people, there’s always a lot of fans, a lot of stuff to do, especially in tournaments, you always have to see people. So when I’m on holiday I like to be quite alone and quite quiet.

Photo Credit: Romain Maurice

So being one of the top professional tennis players and athletes in the world, what would you say are the best parts about that job?
Well there are a lot of good parts at the end of the day, you know. My work is my passion. From a young age, I have enjoyed what I’m doing every day. That’s amazing to tell yourself that every morning you wake up you’re really happy to do your job. So for sure one of my favorite parts is to play in front of a full stadium with a lot of people, like when I play in New York, it’s 18 or 20 thousand people. To feel the atmosphere, to feel the people cheering for you, that’s the best part.

Now I know that you’re a brand ambassador for Audemars Piguet, which also must be an exciting part about being one of the top athletes in your field. Tell me about the partnership and what about the brand specifically spoke to you.
I’m really lucky to be a parter with them. It’s been a few years now that we’ve been working together. I became a friend of the brand through a friend who was working there and I’m really happy that I became friends with François[-Henry Bennahmias, Global CEO of Audemars Piguet], the big boss. For me, it’s been an amazing brand and it’s a real Swiss brand. They keep the same…vision for many, many years. It’s important that what they do is about quality, not about quantity. It’s about making sure that the client is happy with the watch he’s going to wear and that’s been something amazing for me.

And which of the brand’s watches are your favorite to wear while playing versus not playing?
For me I got lucky with AP because…I can almost play with any watches from them. Since I have a one-handed backhand, I have never had any problem with a heavy watch and that’s great. So we change the model depending on where I’m playing and which color I’m wearing. When I play at Wimbledon, for example, it’s an all-white dress code, so I always get the all-white ceramic watch.

Photo Credit: Romain Maurice

I know we talked about some of the perks of being one of the top tennis players in the world but what are some challenges that you have faced in your career that you’ve overcome and how did you do that?
Well for me it was to get to the top of the game to win a Grand Slam. That was the most difficult part in my career, especially to be in the same generation as Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic where they were winning everything since a young age. So it was tough to get through this and find a way to beat them, when no one thought I could. They were almost invincible and that was a big challenge in my career, to get there. But I’m lucky to have won three of them and that was something really special.

And just on a fun note I was personally curious to know where “Stan the Man” came from. How did that come about?
Well it came from New York actually. A few years ago after a big match, they started to call me that in the newspaper and that’s how it basically started. And it stayed there because the fans love it and we kept it. I’m happy with it.

Coming off Indian Wells, I have to ask you about your fellow countryman Roger Federer. Tell me a little bit about that friendly rivalry between you two as you have both been and continue to be at the top of the game.
For me it’s always been amazing to be in the same country as him. We have known each other for many, many years. When I arrived on the tour I was still young, still out of the ranking. He really helped me a lot—I had the chance to practice with the best player in the world. He was number one and getting some tips [from him] and some help to get into the tour was great. We also played in the Olympics together and won the gold medal. So for sure it’s something really special. Also the Davis Cup…that we went to together—that was one my favorite moments in my career. So it’s always been special to be around him, to be with him, to be friends him and to play against him. It’s always been really difficult, not only because we’re friends but also because he’s the best player ever to play this game. And any player who is playing against him has always had some problem. But I think what he’s doing is unbelievable at his age, to still play that well—it’s something that other athletes can look up to too. He’s showing that physically, you can still be at the top, and like I said before, [stay] longer in your career. That’s great for me to see also.

Photo Credit: Romain Maurice

Are there any other players that you look forward to playing at these tournaments or not so much?
[Laughs] I will say that Roger, I don’t enjoy too much to play. I enjoy the part that we know each other so well and that we’re good friends. That’s for sure. But to play against him, it’s always been difficult for me with his game. I personally prefer to play against Djokovic because I feel that his game is a bit better for me and I feel like I can control more of the game. But I like challenges, at the end of the day. If you want to be at the top, if you want to win the best tournament in the world, you need to beat [all of] them anyway. So, it doesn’t matter when you play them.

Both on and off the court, what can we expect moving forward from “Stan the Man?”
On the court, I hope [for] big things, that’s for sure. After one-and-a-half years, coming back from surgery, it was really challenging, really tough. Now I really feel that I’m playing well, I’m moving well and I just need time to get matches, to get wins and to get the confidence back on the court. So, I really believe that this year I can achieve some big things. When and where—I don’t know, but I’m working out everyday for that. And off the court I’m going to keep enjoying life. Life is good and you need to make it good for yourself. As long as you do the right thing on the court, as long as you walk out and you know where you want to go in your professional life and you do the right thing, you can enjoy the rest.

 

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